Atobe was playing against the ball machine. Had been, for almost an hour already. But he had time to spend, his scheduled meeting wasn't for a while yet.
"Yo, Atobe!" a man's voice with an American accent yelled. Atobe hit one more ball and then left the caged area to meet his guest. A youth, not much older than him, in his twenties with blond hair and blue eyes.
Atobe grabbed the towel the blond American threw at him and dried his face. He looked for his water bottle and found it on a nearby bench. He gestured to the other boy and they sat down on the bench, Atobe still trying to even out his breathing.
"Now that's just pathetic," the other boy said. "I'm older than you and I don't get so wound up by just hitting balls. You know what you should try? Basketball. Now that's a real fucking sport, not this fancy tennis shit."
"I'm surprised you didn't suggest ice-hockey, Darryl," Atobe answered.
"Wouldn't, not after what happened when I saw you on the ice last time."
"Simply because I prefer winning instead of team work, really," Atobe smirked.
"If that's how you wanna remember it…"
"It is. And it's the way you remember it too," Atobe informed him.
"Sure," Darryl answered. "Anyway, why'd you call me? You said you actually had something important. And how did you know where I was? I haven't even had the chance to tell my mom where I'm staying, I checked in like five minutes before I got your message."
"Simple, I left a message in every hotel in Tokyo, when I found out you're coming."
"Didn't think of just calling my mom and waiting for her to get back to you on that?"
"I have little patience, you know that," Atobe drank the rest of his water and threw the empty bottle to a kid who snagged it and ran for it. Darryl stared after the kid and then glanced at Atobe, who didn't seem to pay any attention to it. He hadn't even looked in the direction he threw the bottle.
"Yeah, that's about the only thing that you don't got much," Darryl stated dryly.
"I do excel in everything."
"Was actually referring to your ego, but what the hell," Darryl shrugged and watched as the same kid that had caught Atobe's empty water bottle bring out a new one and leave it next to Atobe on the bench. Atobe took the bottle and drank a quarter of it not even once looking at the kid.
"So, how you been?" Darryl asked. "You left the states just a few weeks ago and you're calling me already. Miss me that much?"
"I called because of your mother."
"About mom? If it's about business, call her yourself. You know she doesn't let me anywhere near the business. Says she loves me but that I could-"
"Get the family bankrupt in an hour, I remember and agree with her. I don't know what would happen to your family if it weren't for your brother." Atobe finished the sentence for Darryl. After staying with Darryl's family for four months he'd heard it more than enough.
"You she liked, though," Darryl said. "Said you could sell Uzi's to peace activists and not be bothered by your conscience."
"Not all that sure if that's a compliment," Atobe answered with a frown.
"Coming from my mom, it's a compliment. Actually, I think she's done exactly that." Darryl added the last sentence as an afterthought and Atobe stared at him disbelievingly. He conjured the image of the Rutkin family matriarch in his mind and felt compelled to agree with Darryl. There was almost nothing the woman wouldn't do for a profit.
"I wanted to ask you if you thought her offer for me still stands." Atobe told him, for once in his life, hesitant about something.
"Not sure," Darryl answered. "But she takes business seriously. She wouldn't have made the offer if she wasn't serious. I don't think a few months would affect her decision."
"Could you inquire it on my behalf?"
"Yeah, I was gonna call her today, anyway. But you sure? You'd need to be serious. The company couldn't afford you backing out at the last minute."
"Yes, I am sure," Atobe answered and meant it with his whole being. Darryl sensed his seriousness and nodded.
"I'll have an answer for you by the end of the week. She's probably going to call you herself."
"Good." No matter what was going to happen with Ryoma, this was something that he needed to do for himself.
In the morning Ryoma practically crawled downstairs for breakfast, tempted to call in sick. He had dreamt of Atobe the whole night. After the first dream that was just a replay of their break up, he'd seen some confusing dreams. In one of them Atobe had practically stripped him naked in front of Tezuka, who'd just kept on asking if they should eat fish or meat tomorrow and did Ryoma think a pink tutu would look nice on Oishi.
Another one consisted of Fuji apologizing over and over again at Atobe and Nanjiroh's wedding, with Tezuka acting as the flower girl, Ryoma telling Momo he wanted to catch the bouquet Nanjiroh would throw so he could marry Inui-sempai and bear children to his penal tea.
The final dream he remembered was him and Atobe in the finals of Wimbledon, fucking by the net, Tezuka in the referee chair, shouting, "Love game, winner-" The winner's name was not heard because Kikumaru yelled from the crowded audience, "Go O'chibi, go!"
A bunch of disturbing dreams, that Ryoma was sure would land him to the nut house, if he pondered on them for too long.
Ryoma's father joined him for breakfast, reading the morning paper, a cigarette hanging from his lips.
"Don't smoke in the house, you're gonna kill me some day," Ryoma told his dad.
"Don't you mean it's going to kill me?" Nanjiroh asked.
"No, I mean me. Second hand smoking is a lot more dangerous, you know."
"It's nice to know I have a son who cares," Nanjiroh dropped the cigarette in Ryoma's juice glass and the liquid erupted in to blue flames. They both stared at it for a good few minutes until Nanjiroh finally spoke again, "You have to get that kid to stop bringing those drinks to you. The last batch knocked your mother out for an entire day."
"I would, but Inui-sempai doesn't listen to me. I've even caught Fuji-sempai smuggling them to the fridge for him."
"Now that closed eyed friend of yours is creepy. Almost as good at tennis as Kei-chan. By the way, he coming over today?"
"Dunno. You should know better than me," Ryoma muttered and pushed the blackened glass further from him.
"How could I? You were the last one to speak to him."
"But he came yesterday, right?"
"Why would he come yesterday when you weren't here? Seriously kid, you think he comes here 'cause he wants to play tennis with me?" Nanjiroh snorted and opened his newspaper.
That piece of information didn't affect him at all, not in any way. The grin on his face just indicated how happy he was to go to work. To sweep floors. Yay! Cleaning and organizing! What a dream job!
Ryoma was stocking shelves in the book store when he heard a squeal, "O'chibi!" from behind him. He glared at Kikumaru and the red head grinned sheepishly from beside Momo, who waved at him.
"What are you doing here?" he asked them.
"Just though we'd come and see you," Momo shrugged and Ryoma eyed him with suspicion. "What'cha been doing lately? Seen anyone?"
Ryoma frowned, while still glaring. "What do you mean?" he asked slowly.
"Oh nothing really," Momo said and grinned again. "Ya know, I was thinking."
"Whoopie do, call the frigging press. Momo-sempai can think," Ryoma muttered.
"Oi that ain't no way to talk to a sempai, no way at all!" Momo yelled.
"Would you quit it! I work here!" Ryoma hissed.
"But O'chibi, we just want to know if you're really getting back together with Atobe!" Kikumaru yelled.
"Eh?" Ryoma stared at them. "How the- What are you talking about?"
"I ran in to that red headed freak from Hyoutei, and he said Atobe's back and suspiciously cheery," Kikumaru told him. "And Oshitari told him Atobe's playing tennis again."
"Still don't explain why that would mean I'm getting back together with him. And which red headed freak from Hyoutei? There's two, you know."
"The jumpy one."
"Still don't narrow it down."
"The really annoying one."
"They both are."
"Mukahi," Momo finally interrupted the conversation that could have gone on forever. "And Atobe's back in the country."
"Because he's back in the country, you think that automatically means I'm getting back together with him?" Ryoma asked.
Momo and Kikumaru glanced at each other, shrugged and said, "Yeah," together.
"Huh," Ryoma went and picked another book from the box on the floor and put the price tag on it. "Really?" They both nodded at Ryoma. "Why?"
"Dunno," Momo shrugged. "Guess I just always figured you'd end up with him again. I mean, I remember what it was like when you were with him, and it's so different than when you're with Tezuka."
"Different doesn't mean better," Ryoma frowned when Atobe's words popped in to his head.
"I know Fujiko has you two idolized and everything, but you sure you're happy with Tezuka, O'chibi?" Kikumaru asked.
Ryoma frowned at him. When he'd been with Atobe, none of his friends had really been all that supportive. They had all been somewhat relieved when Ryoma and Atobe broke up and ecstatic when he got together with Tezuka, so what the hell was this? Couldn't they just fucking make up their minds?
"Don't know what you thought, but I'm not getting back together with Atobe. I'm with Tezuka," he said, still frowning at both of them.
"Well, it ain't our business, either way," Momo said. "We just want you to be happy."
"And Buchou?" Ryoma had to ask.
"Him too. Doubt he'd want you to be with him just 'cause you felt obligated, or something. But since that's not it, there's nothing to talk about, right?" Momo smiled at him.
"Yeah, nothing to talk about," Ryoma answered and stared at the book in his hand.
Momo and Kikumaru shared a worried glance. Seemed like it wasn't as simple as they'd hoped it'd be when they decided to come and see Ryoma, in hopes of cutting the wings off the rumours running around the boy and his ex.
Ryoma had planned on going to see Tezuka after work, to try and make up for yesterday, but when he found a book on cat diseases and his mind went back to his fight with Atobe, he knew he couldn't focus on Tezuka any better today then he had yesterday.
So he went home, almost fearful, knowing what was waiting for him there.
He wasn't disappointed. He could hear his father's taunts all the way to the house and recognized Atobe's coat and shoes.
Ryoma climbed up to his room and collapsed on his bed, face buried in his pillow. He attempted to smother his father's voice by covering his head with the pillow. Thankfully it worked and Ryoma was enveloped in blissful silence.
He felt a hand lift his shirt and slide up his back. Ryoma was scared shitless, he froze. Who the hell was in his room?
Another hand joined the first one and started taking off his shirt. Ryoma came back to life, grabbed his pillow and smacked the molester in the face with it. But his attacker seemed prepared for the assault and the hold on Ryoma's shirt didn't loosen. Next thing Ryoma knew he was shirtless and Atobe was smirking at him.
"You!" Ryoma yelled, still in shock. He sat up and found that his face was far too close to Atobe's. He tried to back up but Atobe didn't let him. The older boy simply pushed his back against the wall and placed himself so that both his knees were on either side of Ryoma. He kissed Ryoma, while continuing to undress the boy. And like always, Ryoma was lost in the kiss. Everything else faded away, the only real thing in his world now was Atobe.
Ryoma began pulling on Atobe's clothes, a fear that Atobe would leave again in the back of his mind, making him hurry. Atobe seemed to be in no haste, he caressed Ryoma's lips slowly, lingering on every movement, his slow pace eventually calming down Ryoma, wordlessly promising that he was not going anywhere. The words that they had to say were left for later, both too focused on satisfying their need for the others touch.
With no clothes separating their skins now, they laid down on the bed, lips never apart even for a second, Ryoma allowed himself to be absorbed by the feelings he had been running from. "I love you Keigo," he finally spoke the words that indicated his surrender.
"I never stopped loving you, Ryoma," Keigo answered, no blame in his voice, just the simple truth.
Tezuka took a look at the clock on the kitchen wall and frowned worriedly. He had thought Ryoma would either call or come to visit once he got out of work, but it had been far too long for the boy to simply be running late. So Tezuka decided he should go visit the Echizen household, just to make sure nothing had gone wrong.
The gate was not locked, and hearing the noises from the tennis court, Tezuka went towards it, thinking Ryoma was playing with his father. Instead he found Fuji playing with Echizen Nanjiroh.
"Tezuka!" Fuji waved at him, a smile plastered on his face.
"Ah, Tezuka-kun. What brings you here?" Nanjiroh asked.
"Echizen-san, Fuji," Tezuka greeted both. "I'm looking for Ryoma."
"The kid's probably moping around in his room," Nanjiroh told him. "You two go find him, I think I'm going to find Rinko and pester her about dinner."
"Why are you here, Fuji?" Tezuka asked, once they were alone.
"Oh, I just came to see Ryoma, he's been feeling a little depressed lately and I thought he could use some company." Fuji told him, after retrieving his bag. "But when I came, he wasn't home yet and his father asked me for a game, and since I'd brought my stuff…"
"He has seemed somewhat depressed lately, I'm a little worried too, but can't understand what could possible be the matter. You have any ideas?" Tezuka asked.
"I'm sure it's nothing serious." Fuji told him. "Probably just anxiety about turning eighteen soon and playing in the professional circuits. I know he doesn't act like it, but I'm sure going off alone in to the big wide world probably scares him a little."
"That might be it." Tezuka was glad the reason was so easy to find. "You think it would be a good idea if I travelled with him for a while?"
"It wouldn't hurt," Fuji said. "Why don't we go inside and ask him?"
They went in through the back door and Fuji left his bag next to the stairs. Ryoma's door wasn't closed all the way and Tezuka was about to open it when he heard Ryoma's voice, "I love you Keigo."
Must've heard wrong. Why would Ryoma be talking to Atobe, he's only seen him once, last week. Tezuka thought, but he didn't push the door open.
"I never stopped loving you, Ryoma." Atobe's voice was easily recognizable and the sounds Tezuka heard made it painfully obvious what the two were doing in Ryoma's room. He turned to look at Fuji who was looking at him with eyes open, full of compassion.
"I'm sorry Tezuka," Fuji whispered.
Tezuka shook his head. "Why? How? They're over."
"You told me they were and I was stupid enough to believe you." Tezuka went down the stairs but at the end of them his strength ran out and he sat on the bottom stair. Fuji who had followed him sat next to him.
"Do you… Do you want to know everything?" Fuji asked.
"You… knew of this?" Tezuka asked, stunned. "Of course you knew what a stupid question. Why didn't you tell me, say anything? It might have… been less painful if I could have been prepared for this."
"I wanted to believe it was nothing that wouldn't go away. After I caught them on Saturday Ryoma seemed determined to end all contact with Atobe. I never thought they would… I'm sorry, I was wrong to push you two together when I knew he still loved Atobe and Atobe would never let you be happy if he had a chance of getting him back. But I just wanted the two of you to be together. I just…"
"Fuji, shut up!" Tezuka screamed. "Stop apologizing for something you had nothing to do with!"
"But it was my fault!" Fuji screamed back. "I had a chance to get them back together. Before Atobe went to America, five months ago, Oshitari came to me, asking me for help. He said that if they were to meet, even if it was for a few seconds, they'd end up together again. And that's exactly what happened. But I never took Ryoma there, even when I told Oshitari I would. Instead I told you, you should move forward with Ryoma. And now you're going to fall apart because of me! It's my fault, don't you see! If it weren't for me, you wouldn't get hurt!"
Tezuka stood up and stared at Fuji. "Who says we're falling apart? This isn't something we can't get over. What is happening up there… It's just Ryoma living a memory. Once it's over he'll regret it and I'll forgive him. We'll move on."
"Tezuka…" Fuji stood up too.
"Don't say any of this to him. If he finds out I came, tell him I thought he might be sleeping and left. Understand?"
"Tezuka, don't you understand?" Fuji was pleading, but Tezuka wasn't paying any attention to him. His face had frozen to a stoic mask once again.
"Tezuka-kun, Nanjiroh told me you're here," Rinko came to greet them from the living room. "You're both staying for dinner, right?"
"I'm sorry Echizen-san, but-"
"No, Tezuka-kun, you are staying, and so are you Fuji-kun. Would you go and tell Ryoma dinner is ready?"
Fuji felt an absurd desire to laugh. He settled for a smile that hurt his face and made Rinko look at him strangely. "Maybe we should wait for him to come downstairs?" He asked in a desperate attempt to still salvage the situation in some way.
"Nonsense, if you boy's don't want to disturb him I'll go up," Rinko told them and was almost at the stairs when Tezuka took a step up.
"No need to bother, Echizen-san, we'll get Ryoma downstairs," Tezuka told her.
"Oh, that's good. And would you invite Atobe-kun too. I think he's upstairs in Ryoma's room. I sent him there to wait for Ryoma since Nanjiroh was busy playing with you, Fuji-kun."
"You did what, woman?!" Nanjiroh screamed, coming in to the hallway from the living room. "You think it's a good idea for you boy's to go upstairs? Maybe I should tell the kids it's time for dinner?"
"What is this?" Rinko demanded to know. "How difficult is it for someone to walk up this relatively short staircase, knock on my son's door and tell them it's time for dinner?"
"Sure, Fuji-kun, why don't you go and, knock on the door, say it's time for dinner and come back downstairs. You can stay here with me, Tezuka-kun."
Tezuka rubbed his forehead, feeling the beginnings of a migraine. "It's really no use," he finally gave up. "They left the door open," he told Nanjiroh.
"Aaa…" Nanjiroh said. "Well, it was nice having you as part of the family. Too bad it has come to an end."
"Nanjiroh, really, what a thing to say! Just because Atobe-kun and Ryoma once dated, doesn't mean that- You said they left the door open?" Rinko asked Tezuka.
"Aah." Tezuka nodded.
"And that would implicate that they shouldn't have?"
"I am so sorry, Tezuka-kun. Would you like some tea?"
Fuji couldn't help it anymore. He burst out laughing, hoping someone would come and end this ridiculous scene.
"Why are you disturbing ore-sama with your insane laughter?" Atobe appeared on top of the stairs, hair messed up, a sheet wrapped around him like a toga. He waited for it to be quiet, nodded and declared, "Now that that's settled, if you'll excuse me, I have other more pleasurable things to continue on with." Atobe turned his back on them.
"You wait right there you fucking bastard!" Tezuka yelled, shocking everyone. Atobe stared at him, mouth hanging open.
"Excuse me?" Atobe asked.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Tezuka asked his stoic mask cracked.
Atobe returned Tezuka's intense stare and smirked. "Oi brat, get your ass out here and tell your ex-boyfriend to go home!" Ah, that felt good, Atobe thought, his smirk only widening.
"What the hell are you talking about, Monkey King! I don't have an ex-boyfriend, if you don't mean you, and that don't make sense, so what-!" Ryoma ceased his yelling. There was some time, during which, judging from the sounds of stumbling and smothered cursing, Ryoma was getting his clothes back on. He appeared in the hallway, fully clothed in a wrinkled t-shirt and pyjama bottoms, but with both socks missing.
Ryoma came to stand next to Atobe and gulped when he saw everyone that were standing at the bottom of the stairs, looking up at them. "Aaa…" he began and ended there. There really wasn't anything he could think of to say.
"Nicely put, brat," Atobe said and draped his arm around Ryoma's shoulders. "As you see, Tezuka, there really is no need for you here."
"If anyone should leave, it is you, Atobe." Tezuka said coldly. "Ryoma and I should talk."
"We really should let them speak to each other in private." Rinko said.
Atobe only tightened his hold and said, "I am not leaving you alone with him, so you can mess with his head about responsibility and shit!"
"You are being ridiculous Atobe. What is wrong with responsibility?" Tezuka asked.
"Nothing, as long as you don't try to build a relationship based on it!"
"It is better than building one that is based on mere attraction!"
"Keep dreaming, asshole!"
"Just leave, you narcissistic bastard!"
"Shut up!" Nanjiroh yelled. "Now kids, I know it's a complicated situation, but have you ever considered a threesome?"
"Nanjiroh!" Rinko yelled in shock.
"Dad, don't be an idiot!" Ryoma shared his mother's sentiments.
Tezuka and Atobe shuddered in disgust. Fuji on the other hand, seemed thoughtful. "How about a foursome?" he suggested. "Just kidding!" he giggled when everyone glared at him.
"You're not helping, Fuji-sempai," Ryoma glared a little more forcefully than the others.
"Why are you blaming me?" Fuji asked. He received a stern look from Tezuka and cleared his throat, attempting to look innocent. "I mean, it's all Atobe's fault, right?"
"You have a death wish, Fuji? I know people, you know," Atobe warned him.
"What a coincidence, so do I," Fuji grinned.
"Well I know people who know people who kill people for money," Atobe said.
"Stop threatening my friends, Monkey King," Ryoma ordered and elbowed Atobe to the side.
"You call that smiling freak a friend?" Atobe asked. "You have strange taste in people."
"Yeah, look what I dragged in to bed with me."
"Sometimes you manage to strike gold," Atobe said and kissed Ryoma on his frowned forehead. That made the smaller boy smile.
Tezuka stared at this exchange, realising the two had forgotten everyone and everything else around them. Not once had that happened with him and Ryoma. He knew he could probably convince Ryoma to try again, but the end would probably be pretty much the same it was now. Atobe would never leave them alone now, and it seemed obvious Ryoma couldn't say no to him.
Tezuka sighed and exchanged a look with Fuji. He gave his friend a resigned smile. "I think I'll take that tea now, Echizen-san."
"All right Tezuka-kun," Rinko answered.
They all went to the kitchen, leaving Atobe and Ryoma alone to stare lovingly in to each others eyes. Then Ryoma pulled down Atobe's sheet. Eventually they moved inside Ryoma's room and remembered to lock the door this time.
"Remind me again, why are we in the Netherlands?" Ryoma asked when they stepped out of the plane in Amsterdam, at Schiphol airport.
"Because, I want to crush Tezuka," Atobe stated the obvious.
"Right, and you couldn't do that at Wimbledon next week?"
"Of course not. You will be playing at Wimbledon, so it isn't all that sure he would be in the finals facing me." Atobe told him, making Ryoma roll his eyes.
"Well, are you even sure Buchou's playing in the Ordina Open?" Ryoma asked.
"No, but there's Fuji. I'll just ask him." Atobe pointed at the cheery man waving at them from across the airport.
"You go talk to Fuji-sempai I'll go get the bags and cats." Ryoma disappeared to the crowd before Atobe even had a chance to humiliate him publicly with a passionate kiss.
"Hello Atobe, how you been?" Fuji asked. "Where's Ryoma?"
"Just fine, getting the bags and pets."
"You brought Karupin with you again?"
"And Kitten," Atobe said. "Since you're here, I'm guessing so is Tezuka?" Atobe lifted an eyebrow suggestively.
"Yes, we're shearing a room."
"Excellent. Does Tezuka know you're sharing a room?"
"He will, by tonight," Fuji grinned.
"Where are you staying?"
"At the InterContinental."
"That was my first choice too, but they don't allow pets, so we're staying at the Hilton."
"I thought you'd just pay them to allow pets."
"I wanted to, but my sponsor didn't like the idea. Madam Rutkin thought it would send the wrong message. A woman who evicted an orphanage because they were a month late on their payments told me it would send the wrong message," Atobe huffed.
"You could have always left the cats at home." Fuji suggested.
Atobe stared at Fuji. And then stared a little more. "Of course you are not serious?"
"What's Fuji-sempai not serious about?" Ryoma asked, arriving with two cat carriers in tow.
"Where are the bags?" Atobe asked.
"The driver took them. Here, take Kitten," Ryoma gave him the other cat carrier.
"Hello, you sweet little ball of fluff! Did you have a nice flight?" Atobe cooed at the cat. "Did the turbulence scare you? Don't worry little kitten, next time we're taking the jet, no matter what Madam Rutkin says about sending fucking messages. I do not wish to be subjected to that horror ever again!"
"That's what you said the last time and we always take the commercial airlines," Ryoma muttered.
"You haven't met Madam Rutkin. The woman's scary as hell, even on the phone. But this time I'm not taking any chances! I'm not telling her!"
"We already tried that once, remember? Why don't you just drop her sponsorship? It's not like you can't afford it."
"Did you hear me when I told you she's scary as hell?" Atobe asked.
"Che, whatever, lets just get to the hotel. I'm hungry," Ryoma put Karupin's carrier on the floor and took out a tourist map.
"In a second," Atobe gave the cat carrier to Fuji and did what he'd wanted to do before Ryoma disappeared to get the cats. He took Ryoma in his arms and gave him a passionate kiss, back bending and all. When he allowed Ryoma to stand again the boy was a bit wobbly on his feet. "Now let's get going. Tomorrow I'm going to crush your ex-boyfriend!" Still feels damn good to say that.
A/N: My longest story yet, and an actual ending on top of that. Err… Right?
Still, if anyone has any questions after reading this, ask, and I shall attempt to answer. Even if I'm hoping you won't.
Critique always welcomed.